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MANILA, Philippines – The Senate will prioritize the creation of a disaster resilience department after budget deliberations, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Monday, November 4, days after a series of powerful earthquakes rocked Cotabato.
Speaking to reporters, Zubiri said that “it’s about time” the country had its own department that oversees disaster preparedness and response.
“This a priority measure of the adminsitration so definitely we will try to insert the debates during the budget lull,” Zubiri said.
“I believe Senator Angara will sponsor by November 11. The we will have debates on the budget for two weeks, so November 20. And then after which, it will go to the bicameral conference committee. During the lull, we can insert it,” he added.
The Senate targets to finish the budget deliberations by November 22, so that the bicam can convene around November 25 to 30.
“During the bicam, we can insert priority measures,” the majority leader said.
In a separate interview with DZMM, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he’s confident the proposed measure may be passed by the end of the year: “A very big chance because we really need this. There’s a huge possibility [for it to be passed by then] and for the President to sign this.”
But Zubiri said he’s “not too confident” that it will be passed by the year’s end. He added though that it will surely be tackled before the Senate goes on recess in December.
He said the “latest” possible time for the bill to be approved is by the end of the regular session on June 2020.
“Everything is possible. It depends on who will interpellate and if somebody would block it. But I think it shouldn’t be blocked because disaster response is very important,” Zubiri said.
Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 201 created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council as the overseeing body for preparedness, response, and relief operations.
Under the law, there should be a review every 5 years to evaluate its performance and organizational structure. But fast forward to 2019, no such review was ever taken up by Congress. (READ: Gov’t eyes ‘stronger’ disaster management agency to replace NDRRMC)
While stakeholders said that the world looks up to the Philippines’ DRRM law, there are problems with policies and implementation.
Zubiri, who was a first-term senator when RA 10121 was passed, said that the intention then was to avoid creating too many departments.